I saved this posting for the last couple of years..... though it was first written in 2005. IMHO lots of great information.
BTW, I am a 6.8 and hope to chop off a couple of strokes this year. I am looking forward to others comments AND your following your journey.
_____________________________________________ From: GolfWRX [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Sunday, January 10, 2016 10:25 PM To: JuanTheGolfer Subject: New reply to Road to Scratch
From David "Obee" Ober
I first wrote this article back in 2005(?) when I was playing the best golf of my life. I was a +2.0 to +3.5 during the playing season for several years in a row back in the early/mid 2000's. I took up golf at age 20 back in about 1988, and was able to get a low single-digit handicap in about 2 - 3 years. I certainly wan't a very good low handicapper in my first few years, and had trouble playing to my handicap under any type of pressure, but I steadily got better and better in two main ways:
1) I truly believed that I had the ability to play golf at the +3 index level even though I had a full-time job and a wife and kids.
2) I paid attention to every little detail about scoring and the mental side of the game that I could possibly ready or watch or glean from better players than myself.
That's it. Those two things are the only real keys in my mind. Start with number 1, which should lead you to number 2. I hope you enjoy your journey....
Advice for the Low Handicap Golfer
On Taking His Game to the Next Level
My initial advice to most golfers who want to become better players, is to actually play more. After all, we play Golf, not Golf Swing. You get no points for the prettiest or most-technically sound golf swing. You win or compete by getting the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible. Not surprisingly, then, the list of world-class players with unorthodox or idiosyncratic golf swings is long and getting longer every year. Think Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, et al. Heck, even a guy like Dustin Johnson, whose swing is beautiful and rhythmic, is so shut at the top that no (?) teacher would ever encourage students to emulate it.
If you are reading this, then you are most likely already a low handicap golfer (5 index or below?). What you need to learn is how to get the most out of your game --not how to have the swing of a PGA Tour pro. There are very few miracles in life, meaning few (if any) people who have been playing 2-handicap golf for 10 years will ever miraculously find the key to the perfect golf swing and start playing as a +5 to +6, which is about where you need to be to compete as a legitimate playing professional (all other things like mental toughness, ability to play under pressure, etc. notwithstanding). That kind of swing change just isn't going to happen.
Which is why I say its about learning how to play the game and not learning some new golf swing. Start learning how to get the most out of what you already have instead of relying on the pipe dream that some day you will “fix” your golf swing. Does that make sense? If not, then this article is not for you.
A few things before I get into the specifics: Play as much as you can, and play as many tournaments as possible. (I can't emphasize this enough). When you're not playing a tournament, always make sure you are playing a competitive match with someone and make sure you have some money on the line. And make it enough so that if you lose, it stings a bit. The "playing for money" thing is not for everyone, and that's okay, it helped me get better and also helped me play more consistently under tournament pressure, so that's why I recommend it.
Second, try to learn something from every single experience on the golf course. Pay attention to how you feel, what your tendencies are, and what your self-talk is like. For instance:
· What did you feel like when you hit that 100 yard sand wedge to 5 feet?
· How did that feeling differ from the one you chunked just two holes before?
· Was it the pin position that made you uncomfortable? Was it the lie?
· How did your state of mind prior to the shot influence the outcome, if at all?
· What did you say to yourself prior to shoving that tee shot out of bounds late in that one round when you were 2-under par and about to beat your personal best?
· Why did you snap-hook that 3-iron into the water from that ball-below-your-feet lie? Isn’t the ball supposed to right off ball-below-your-feet lies?
· Why do I always miss left from uphill lies?
· Why do I always miss left from downhill lies? (Yes, the dominant miss for many good players from uphill and downhill lies can be a pull, but for different reasons).
· Why do I leave so many 50 yard pitch shots short?
· Why do I have so much trouble on fast greens? Slow greens? Big breakers?
· Why can my buddy stop his shots to elevated front pins, but I can't?
· Why do I always come up short to back pins?
· I noticed a correlation between a quick negative thought as I stand over the ball. How do I deal with that?
· I hate straight-in putts and am always looking for break in short putts. Some guys have no trouble with straight putts. Why is that?
· Etc., etc., etc....
These are just a sampling of the kinds of questions you should ask yourself. However, to even ask them to begin with, you must pay attention on the golf course. Don't be judgmental – that’s a killer. Just pay attention and learn from yourself without beating yourself up and being overly critical. It's amazing how much easier it is to play the game when you are noticing, and not judging.
Remember: The scores you shoot, over time, are a direct representation of who you are as a golfer. There is no getting around that, so don't make excuses. Don't hope. Don't equivocate. You are your scores -- at least as a golfer. You want to get better? Then you need to fix the things that are leading to your undesirable scores! So pay attention to what is causing them. Also, don't be afraid to ask the better golfers at your club to take a look at your game and your mental process. They will almost certainly be happy to be brutally honest with you!!
Regarding playing the game, as far as I can tell, to become a legitimate regionally or nationally competitive amateur golfer (generally in the +1 to +4 index range), you need to master the following:
1) Drive the ball relatively straight and relatively long, so work on the driver. And you should be comfortable on right-to-left holes and left-to-right holes. This is a must. I play with lots of players that can only hit one shot with the driver – this is a recipe for disaster under pressure on a hole that doesn't fit your eye.
You must, at the very minimum, be able to hit the ball straight when called upon if what you normally do is draw or fade the ball. Too many holes just do not fit a draw or a fade. If you can't work the ball both ways, at least be able to hit it more-or-less straight when necessary. Or have a "back-up" club that you hit. Lots of pros, when faced with a left-to-right tee shot will pull out a 3-wood because it's easier to turn down the face of a 3-wood and hit a controlled draw than it is on a driver.
2) Hit the ball solidly with reasonable accuracy and repeatability from 130 yards to 179 yards, so work a bit on your ball striking with 6-iron to pitching wedge. But don't get too caught up spending time here. You will yield much better results by spending your practice time on the driver, full and three-quarter wedges, putting, and chipping/pitching. I'm a big believer that if you hone a full pitching wedge swing and are able to "work" the ball with your pitching wedge (which requires clubface control and an understanding of golf ball launch mechanics and how they relate to your swing), that the PW swing carries over to clubs all the way up to about 7 iron for most players.
3) Be a great full wedge player (80-120 yards). This means when you have gap wedge, sand wedge, or lob wedge in your hands from the fairway, you should expect to get the ball within 30 feet almost every time. Tour average from 75 to 100 yards is 18 feet. If you want to be a scratch player, you should certainly average 25 feet or so, which means eliminating the horrible wedge shots from your bag. Absolutely zero: chunks, skulls, shanks, or duffs.
You must be rock solid with a wedge in your hands and feel like you have a better chance of knocking it in the hole, than missing the green. Now will you occasionally blade one or chunk one? Sure, but for most scratch and below players, that should be a very rare occurrence indeed.
4) Be able to hit the ball solidly from 180 to 220. You certainly don't need to spend much time here, you really only need to be able to make consistent contact such that your distance is repeatable with the longer clubs. You're not going to hit much more than 50% (if that) of greens from these yardages, so don't fret when you miss from here. Just use your short game to get up and down, and try to stay away from the short side – especially in tournament play since the rough is usually up in big tournaments.
Note: Recent statistical analysis of PGA Tour pros' games has revealed that this "Danger Zone" play (175 - 225 yds) is actually one of the most, if not the most important parts of the game at that level. That does not, however, invalidate my advice, which is that an amateur needs to get repeatable distance from the longer clubs. No matter what he does he will not stick his long irons or hybrids close on a regular basis. Learn to compress the ball and take one side of the golf course out of play with your longer clubs, and you will be ahead of the overwhelming majority of 2-5 handicap players out there).
5) Have a good to great short game. Of course the closer to great you are, the worse other parts of your game can be. I'm only a decent driver of the ball (quite straight, but on the short side), but I am (or was, 10 years ago) a considerably better player than most club scratch amateurs because my short game was very good.
In addition, a huge advantage of a sharp short game is that it compresses the top half of your score range. With a great short game, you are able to turn 80's into 75's and stay in a match or stay within striking range in a stroke-play tournament.
Spend lots of time on the practice green, and when you're there, use your imagination! Practice some short pitches and chips, and ask yourself how many different ways there are to play the same shot-- then execute each and every one of them. Experiment, and don't be afraid to look bad. Just get creative and do it! High, low, cut spin, go spin, bump it through the fringe, flop it up and stop it on a dime. You name it. If you're good enough to be a 3, you can play all of these shots, but can you play them when it counts? That's the question. If you don't practice them, you don't own them. And to have a great short game, you need to own all the different shots.
One quick caveat: Do not fall in love with the flop shot. It's a valuable tool to have in your golf belt, but it is over-used by many near scratch players that learn it and then want to use it every time there's an opportunity. Im not saying that you shouldn't use the lob wedge--I'm saying don't use it to flop the ball, unless the situation demands it.
6) Be a good lag putter, which means controlling distance and seeing the line on longish putts. The longer and tougher a putt is, the more conservative you must be with your line. And when I say conservative, I mean erring on the high side. On many tough putts, you should really visualize the ball slowing down and literally trickling into the hole from the very top of the breaking point.
The reason? Ball coming in from the high side are working toward the hole, whereas balls on the low side are working away from the hole. It’s amazing, but this seemingly simple little distinction eludes so many otherwise good players.
7) Be good inside 6 feet with the putter. All I can say here is: Practice, practice, practice. Groove a stroke, and become confident with it. Practice at home, practice at work, practice anywhere you can. There is no"correct" putting stroke, period. Find one that works for you and that you feel comfortable with and groove it. And don't be afraid to switch to a funky putting stance or grip or putter when necessary to fight off the occasional bout with the yips. I've done that several times in my life, usually with moderate success.
Finally, I also highly recommend keeping honest, detailed stats on your rounds. It really helps when you can look back over 40 rounds or more at your strengths and weaknesses, since many of us have a skewed view of our games. For instance, if you think you have a pretty good short game, but you're only getting up and down 45% of the time from inside 30 yards, then you're really not as good as you think. Not saying this is you, just that keeping meticulous, detailed stats will tell you where you really are, not where you think you are.
Finally, read plenty of stuff on the mental game:
Golf is Not a Game of Perfect
Extraordinary Golf (probably my all-time favorite golf book, but not for everyone) Pressure Golf Zen Golf Going Low
Golf: How Good Do You Want to Be?
I saved this for last, but at the near-scratch level, developing and improving the mental game is probably the most important. Learning to control your emotions and your mind on the golf course is absolutely crucial to playing your best golf. There are thousands of golfers out there with the ability to compete at the regional/national amateur level that will never know how good they can be, because they refuse to conquer the inconsistent thinking and lack of a plan that leads to so many of their poor decisions, shots, and scores.
I hope this has been helpful.